How To: Cory Arcangel's 'Cookery'

Jun 26, 2024

Six images in two rows of Spongebob Squarepants, a cartoon yellow sponge in a brown suit, catching jellyfish. The images start out as regular images of Spongebob but become increasingly degraded and inverted in terms of quality and color, with the fifth appearing more red and yellow and the sixth appearing more purple and black.
Six images in two rows of Spongebob Squarepants, a cartoon yellow sponge in a brown suit, catching jellyfish. The images start out as regular images of Spongebob but become increasingly degraded and inverted in terms of quality and color, with the fifth appearing more red and yellow and the sixth appearing more purple and black.

Cory Arcangel

Wondering how Cory Arcangel's '🌊, 💨 & 🔥' got made? So were we. And the answer is about as simple as it gets with Cory's work, which often pays homage to digital technologies of the past and the present. 

First, he captured footage of the titular natural elements ('water' and 'wind' was shot right here in Chicago; and 'fire' in Stavanger, Norway; where he lives). Then, in collaboration with web designer and programmer Henry Van Dusen, the artist developed a custom 'bash program' — a script anyone can run in the command line utility of their device, alongside ImageMagik and FFmpeg for video support — in order to 'deep fry' images. Cory's project for us marks the first time he has publicly exhibited the results of this script on video footage. 

Depending on your level of conversance with internet meme culture, the answer to what 'deep frying' is may be more intuitive. But if you're not sure: the phrase refers to a manipulation of the data that affects images' size and quality. The result is an image that, although potentially recognizable, differs vastly from the original in color, shadow, highlight, and exposure. 

While there are numerous applications with slick interfaces that hide this data manipulation process from the end user, Cory's script — aptly named Cookery — allows anyone to generate stunning 'deep-fried' images while taking a peek into the process. And to help us all use it, Henry and Cory have published a website that outlines the software's process, step-by-step. So what are you waiting for? It's time to get cooking. Deep-fry your own image anytime and see Cory's project running airing alongside Yinka Ilori, starting at 9pm every night through September 11.